Cars

Battery as body part: Chinese electric car BYD Seal with innovative battery

Build Your Dreams, loosely translated: create your dreams. Among them, many smiled disparagingly at the newly founded BYD Auto Company in 2003, they probably don’t have it in China. BYD has now become one of the toughest competitors in the global electromobility market. First for buses and commercial vehicles, now also for cars. The latest model from BYD is the Seal. This sedan combines so many innovations in the battery system that it is no exaggeration to speak of a superlative. Whether and when she comes to Germany is open.

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The conglomerate BYD produces the battery cells for its electric cars itself. In the case of the Seal, the so-called blade batteries, which consist of LFP cells, are installed on the “Platform 3.0”. They do without nickel and cobalt, are cheaper and more durable. In addition, unlike the NMC formats commonly used in Europe (the abbreviation for the cathode materials nickel, manganese and cobalt), there is almost no risk of thermal runaway, the dreaded thermal runaway. Therefore, the LFP cells can be packed particularly densely.

They have to, because the weakness of the LFP cells is their comparatively poor energy density. This does not have to be a defect, as the only electric car with this cell chemistry sold in significant numbers in Germany proves: It is the basic version of the Tesla Model 3 with currently around 60 kWh energy content. Tesla has also shown that it is possible to mitigate poor charging behavior in cold weather through targeted preconditioning.

So BYD produces the LFP cells itself, which are packed tightly together in a battery system in the format of the blade of a sword (hence the English word “blade”). The voltage level is 800 volts, which, compared to the usual 400 volts, leads to smaller diameters of the copper cables, correspondingly tighter bending radii and increased internal efficiency.


The highlight of the BYD Seal is the platform 3.0. The battery system works with self-produced and large format (blade) LFP cells. The voltage is 800 volts. In addition, the battery system is a load-bearing part of the body, which saves weight and increases energy density.

For the first time in a production car, the battery system becomes a supporting part of the body. Put simply, the top of the battery is also the floor of the vehicle interior, which is reinforced with a honeycomb structure. Various abbreviations are in circulation for this high degree of integration, sometimes cell-to-vehicle, sometimes cell-to-chassis and sometimes cell-to-body (“CTB”) as with BYD. The aim is to improve the ratio of active cell material to packaging. There is potential for optimization here in almost all battery systems. The auto industry is moving forward here in small steps, and BYD has gone furthest in the Seal.

On the Chinese home market – the largest market in the world in absolute terms – the Seal competes directly with the Tesla Model 3. It has in common that there is no large tailgate, but only a stump lid for the trunk. The external dimensions are similar: 4.80 m in length, 1.88 m in width and 1.46 m in height. The drag coefficient is cW 0.219 very good.

There will probably be two battery sizes with 61 and 82 kWh capacity; the ranges range from 550 to 700 km in the extra-slack Chinese driving cycle. Against this background, the standard consumption value of 12.7 kWh/100 km should be viewed with even more caution than with the WLTP. The Seal comes with rear or optional all-wheel drive, and the weight distribution between front and rear is said to be exactly 50:50. In the top version, the factory specification for the standard sprint to 100 km/h is 3.8 seconds.

The basic version starts at 212,800 yuan, which is currently around 29,700 euros. The top model is at least 289,800 yuan, about 40,500 euros. Such prices would be unrivaled in this country, but in the case of an export, there would of course be an adjustment to the respective market. BYD has already started selling electric cars in Norway in the European Economic Area (EEA). The Tang SUV and the T3 pickup truck are available there. Norway could also become a testing ground for other BYD models like the Seal.


BYD sells the Tang SUV and the T3 pickup truck in Norway. Whether and when the seal comes to Norway or even to Germany is open.

In Germany, similar to Tesla, a dealer and workshop network would first have to be set up. A published decision on this has not yet been made, but it is probably only a matter of time before BYD also sells electric cars to us. Maybe it will be 2025 or even later. The only thing that is certain is that the Chinese auto industry will say goodbye to producing solely for its own population of more than 1.4 billion.

Tesla, rumor has it, is very interested in BYD’s battery system. It is not a rumor, but a fact that in 2020 Toyota established a joint venture with BYD and is launching the bZ SDN sedan based on the 3.0 platform. We expect a presentation later this year. Spy photos indicate that the production version of the Toyota bZ SDN is exactly the same as the study unveiled by Akio Toyoda in December 2021. So the BYD Seal could first come to us via the detour Toyota bZ SDN.


(mfz)

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